Don’t Just Work Hard and Be Smart: Work Smart!
November 4, 2009 by Joyce Richman
Carolyn (not her real name) comes to work tied up in knots and goes home the same way. She’s worried that she won’t have enough time to get her job done. She’s worried that someone will ask her a question that she can’t answer. She’s worried that she’ll never be as smart as she needs to be.
If Carolyn were the only victim of her angst, that would be difficult enough. But she isn’t. Everyone who comes into contact with her is affected:
- Her boss. Carolyn is temperamental, so he treats her with kid gloves. No matter how careful he is when making a request, asking questions or providing feedback, he ends up feeling like the heavy. He doesn’t like the feeling.
- Her peers. Carolyn insists on working in a quiet space. If they talk loudly, she looks angry. If they whisper to not distract her, she looks suspicious. They feel like they have to tiptoe around her. They don’t like the feeling.
- Her direct reports. Carolyn micro manages and second-guesses everything they do. They feel intimidated and inadequate. They don’t like the feeling.
When Carolyn was in college she was long on honors and short on friends. She avoided anything and anyone that got in the way of her studies. Whatever she learned didn’t include managing her emotions or her relationships.
How has she remained so insensitive to the effect she has on others? Everyone just kept their collective mouths shut.
Her parents: “Leave Carolyn alone. You know how difficult smart children can be.”
Her teachers: “Carolyn is very intense and emotional, like many gifted students. People will learn to work around her and accept her as she is.”
The problem is, they haven’t and they won’t.
What’s Carolyn’s take on all this?
“I work harder than anyone else in this company. I come in earlier and stay later and take work home when I leave. I work every weekend and still worry that I won’t get it all done.
I know that people resent me. It’s obvious. But if I allow myself to be influenced by that, I’ll fail at my job. Doing my work right is more important to me than being popular.
I’m too intense? Well, I guess so! Wouldn’t you be? Now, get out of my way, I have work to do.”
Sorry, Carolyn. Despite your commitment to excellence, you are ineffective. Being smart, hardworking and focused just doesn’t cut it if no one is willing to work with you. Unless you learn how to behave differently and act upon what you learn, you’re going to be on your own. Completely.
What can Carolyn do? If she knew, she’d probably be doing it.
So Carolyn, (or Caleb, Carl or Carla) here’s a crash course in business savvy:
Stop worrying about what you can’t control. Focus on what you can. You will never get it all done or have the answers to questions that may never be asked. And if you are spending your time trying to do both, you’re spreading yourself thin and wearing yourself out.
Are you saying “yes” to the wrong things and saying “no” to the wrong people? What are your boss’s priorities? If you don’t know, don’t assume. Ask. Your productivity should correspond to your boss’s expectations of you, not what you think those expectations should be.
Are you making your boss’s requests into something more complex than he intends? Simplify. Unnecessary complexity begets complication that can gum up the works and increase everyone’s tension levels. You end up wasting time with needless delays and pointless headaches.
Are you carrying more of the load than anyone should? Who’s putting it there? If it’s your subordinates, you may be the one extending the invitation. When your do-more attitude collides with their do-less behavior, you end up doing it all. Bad idea. Learn how to delegate. Learn what to delegate. Learn to provide honest and timely feedback to those who do it well and those who need to do it better.
If you only remember one thing, remember this: People won’t remember you as working the hardest or being the smartest. You’ll be remembered for how well you played the game and how well you treated your teammates along the way.
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Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at www.thecoachingassociation.com.